Thursday, April 25, 2013

He Has The Right To Remain Silent

Via TPM:

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional right to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights on Monday, he immediately stopped talking, according to four officials of both political parties who were briefed on the interrogation but insisted on anonymity because the briefing was private.

After roughly 16 hours of questioning, investigators were surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the hospital room and read Tsarnaev his rights, the four officials and one law enforcement official said. Investigators had planned to keep questioning him.

It is unclear whether any of this will matter in court since the FBI says Tsarnaev confessed to a witness and U.S. officials said Wednesday that physical evidence, including a 9 mm handgun and pieces of a remote-control device commonly used in toys, was recovered from the scene.

But the debate over whether suspected terrorists should be read their Miranda rights has become a major sticking point in the debate over how best to fight terrorism. Many Republicans, in particular, believe Miranda warnings are designed to build court cases, and only hinder intelligence gathering.

Conservatives often bemoan how hard it is to convict criminals and how terrible it is that some people get released or acquitted because of a “technicality” such as a conviction being overturned because it was based on illegally seized evidence.  They complain that the deck is stacked against law-abiding citizens and the bad guys are all using the system to their advantage.

Yeah, it’s terrible, isn’t it?  Sure, it would be a lot easier, a lot more efficient, and save everyone a lot of time and money if we could just grab the bad guys and throw them in jail without having to go to the trouble to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they’re guilty.  C’mon, we know they did it; why go through all this hugga-mugga just to live up to some Fourth or Fifth Amendment when we know we’ve got’em dead to rights?  (It’s ironic that some people are absolutists about certain amendments, such as the Second, but when it comes to others like the Fourth, Fifth, or Fourteenth; enh, not so much.)

But that’s how it’s supposed to be.  The Constitution and the justice system are designed to make it hard to convict someone of a crime.   This inconvenient and cumbersome system is what separates us from the worst instincts of human nature; to mistrust the motives of everyone else and presume the worst about others.  The most noble and uplifting thing about our Constitution and our justice system is that it actually codifies the belief in the better nature of humanity: that we are good and law-abiding people and that criminal behavior and ill will is not our true nature.  No government or set of laws ever did that before, and its what makes us the comparatively free and aspirational society that we are.

Yes, there are bad people among us, and yes, we may find inconvenient and annoying to put up with someone else’s emphatic exercise of their rights, but if you consider the alternative, it’s worth it.

3 barks and woofs on “He Has The Right To Remain Silent

  1. ALL of the law is a “technicality.” And every time I hear that these “technicalities” make it hard for the cops or the government to prosecute bad guys I ask where in the Constitution it says that prosecutions are supposed to be easy?

    And too bad we found out that Paul Kevin Curtis didn’t send anybody any ricin before we got to convict him. Damn technicalities…

  2. This is the risk of the post 9-11 laws, of course, they make it easy to ignore Constitutional guarantees by simply inserting the claim of “terrorism” into virtually ANY criminal prosecution. And no proof of connection to actual terrorism is needed; once terrorism is alleged anyone so prosecuted can be effectively gagged and even their lawyer can end up imprisoned if they talk outside of court.

    But they keep going this way, if there is not a pull back, an awful lot of people are going to wake up in jail with no recourse.

  3. I loved Stewart’s take on this: the right wing is jettisoning amendments faster than Han Solo dumping cargo before making the jump to light speed.

    Except of course, the 2nd, which as we all know is sacrosanct.

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